In February 2019, we took your first look at the Colorado Tripod Company’s Centennial Series 2 tripod and highline ball head.
Both the Centennial Series-2 and the Highline remain the flagship members of their tripod and ball head ranges. Still, the Colorado Tripod Company people haven’t just sat around and twirled their thumbs in the past year and a half.
There are now several iterations of the Highline ball head in different sizes. The first new variant that came onto the market was the Highline Mini: a surprisingly powerful one tiny A version of the original Highline ball head (not called Highline medium) that proves that good things are really available in surprisingly small packages. You can find my thoughts on this little gem here on Contrastly.
As you can imagine, the Colorado Tripod Company contacted us to get a first look at the latest version of the Highline family Small highline ball headI couldn’t wait to see the “TweenerVersion of one of my favorite ball heads for a spin. They also included a sample of their brand new quick release lever clamp before release.
Dear friends, this is the little Highline ball head with a teaser selection of your brand new quick release lever clamping system.
Out of the box
In my opinion, the Highline-Small is the best looking ball head that I have undoubtedly tested by the Colorado Tripod Company! Granted, I’m a “less is more“Dude, but I dug up the aesthetics of the Small Highline as soon as I took it out of its (pretty impressive) neoprene storage bag.
If you’ve seen my previous test and video on the Highline Mini, you know that the color scheme was one of the few things I didn’t like about this little ball head. The bright colors just didn’t match my style. All of these thoughts have now been banished with the Small Highline, which arrived in an elegant matte black and gunmetal finish. Absolutely great. Even better, it went wonderfully with the K&F carbon fiber tripod (which we also tested) on which I mounted it for my tests.
Before I go any further into the great looks of the Small Highline, here are some of the specifications you want to know about the ball head.
- material: 6061 aluminum
- Loading capacity: 23 kg
- Weight: 0.7 lbs (318 g)
- height: 95 mm base to the top of the clamp
- Width at the base: 50 mm
- Ball diameter: 40 mm (1.5 inches)
- Thread mounting size: ⅜ inch or ¼ inch (with supplied adapter)
Aside from its looks (did I mention that I like how it looks?), The Highline Small feels extremely solid in the hand. It could be a scaled-down version of the Highline medium, and it includes the handy friction adjustment knob that is available on its larger cousin.
The swivel base has laser-etched, unpainted grade marks. The Colorado Tripod Company (COTC) logo is engraved deep into the body of the head, which, to be honest, fits perfectly into the dreaded “Hey look at me!Effect of some other brands.
Performance and practical application
If you are familiar with my work at all, you know that I take photos with an enormous variety of cameras and processes, both film and digital. My cameras range from large format 5 × 7 and 4 × 5 film giants to medium format and 35 mm films to a large number of DSLR and mirrorless full frame and crop sensor bodies. So of course I run into problems shooting a “one size fits everyone”Setup when it comes to my tripods and headrest systems.
This was a problem that the highline small seemed to face with brilliant courage. Although it certainly doesn’t fit perfectly for some of my shooting scenarios (5 × 7 Conley), it does offer an excellent balance between weight capacity and manageability. It is much smaller and lighter than the Highline medium and much stronger than the Highline mini. It allows me to use it when the gear load becomes important, but it still allows me to support relatively large camera systems.
There are no problems with drift or slip during my use of the Highline-Small. The friction adjustment button really lights up here. Depending on the weight of your camera and lens combination, you can adjust the friction of the ball head so that the camera does not suddenly drop when you take your hand off your body. It is even better that the friction lock for long exposures can be firmly tightened from the heart, which practically avoids the camera drift during long exposures.
If you’d like a closer look at the Highline-Small and its functions as well as a direct comparison with the Highline-Medium and the Highline-Small, have a look at my comprehensive video test below.
Impressions of the new quick release lever clamp
In order not to be left out, I wanted to give you some thoughts on the pre-release version of the COTC lever clamp that was included in my trial version of the Small Highline Ballhead. Since the lever clamp is technically not a production model, there may be deviations in the final version.
The quick release lever clamp is very interesting. It appears to be an ordinary quick release, but there are some welcome additions. That is, the “safety“Mechanism. If you look closely at the release lever, you will notice the security.
This security is of course impaired when the clamp is engaged and protects against inadvertent loosening of the clamp. However, this is a redundant protective measure, since the supplied base plate has two studs that prevent the plate from accidentally sliding completely off the clamp.
When you speak of plates, you will also find that the supplied COTC plate contains a spirit level, which is nice, but depending on the size of your camera, it can be difficult to read.
Final thoughts on the COTC Highline-Small Ballhead and the quick release lever clamp
If I left a primary impression of the Highline-Small, it is that it is almost as good as a “All-rounderPiece of equipment.
It is small enough not to weigh you down when backpacking and trekking, yet still offers an impressive load capacity of 23 kg. It might be a little over the top for a small vlogging setup, but could still be used for those. Although I haven’t tested it as such, if you are a photographer who mainly shoots with a monopod for sports and wildlife, I have a feeling that you will love the Highline Small.
Surprisingly, because of its size, this ball head also seemed to be at home for studio work. As you could see, supporting my Bronica GS-1 and even my 4×5 speed graphics pacemaker was no problem.
And of course … of course … it looks wonderful and is available in six different color schemes.
Overall, I hadn’t expected to be so satisfied with the Highline-Small. Through my experience, “Middle of the road“Is not always synonymous with the best results in photography, especially when it comes to camera support systems. I am happy to say that the small Highline ball head seems to have proven the opposite.
You can find the Highline Small for under $ 100 on the Colorado Tripod Company website. For an additional $ 50, you can upgrade to the new quick release lever clamp as it becomes available.